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Cornell University Library 
E 302.6.L69D42 

A biographical sketch of Robert R. Livin 

3 1924 016 845 129 


Cornell University 

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Read before the N. Y. Historical Society, 
October 3, 1876, 

By the President, 





At a stated meeting of the New York Historical Society, 
held m its Hall, on Tuesday Evening, December 5, 1876, the 
following recommendation, presented by the Executive Committee, 
was unanimously adopted : 

The Executive Committee respectfully recommend to the 
Society, that the President be invited to deposit in the archives 
of the Society a copy of his biographical sketch, accompanying the 
gift of Vanderlyn's portrait of Chancellor Livingston, for publication. 

Extract from the Minutes. 

Andrew Warner, 

Recording Secretary. 































[The President, Recording Secretary, Treasurer, and Librarian are mem- 
bers, ex-officio, of tlie Executive Committee. ] 





ANDREW WARNER, Secretary. 

[The President, Librarian, and Chairman of the Executive Committee are 
members, ex-officio .^ of the Committee on the Fine Arts.] 




HE Portrait of Robert R. Livingston, 
first Chancellor of the State of New 
York, which has this evening been pre- 
sented to the New York Historical Society by 
Mrs. Thomson Livingstone, an American lady, now 
residing in Paris, represents this distinguished gen- 
tleman in the court-dress worn by him when repre- 
senting the United States as their Minister Pleni- 
potentiary at the Court of France during the con- 
sulate of the First Napoleon. 

There are doubtless many persons present this 
evening who are unacquainted with his character 
and public services, to whom a brief sketch will be 
of interest. I propose, therefore, to present the 
principal facts in his public career, and shall touch. 

lo Biographical Sketch of 

incidentally, upon the history of the family of Liv- 
ingston. Before proceeding with this biographical 
sketch, it may be well first to make a brief statement 
regarding this portrait, and the artist who painted it. 
The admirable portrait now before you is the 
work of John Vanderlyn, the noted painter, who 
was born at Kingston, Ulster county, New York, in 
October, 1776, and who died there September 23d, 
1852. His rudimentary instruction in art was re- 
ceived from Gilbert Stuart, in New York, when 
about sixteen years of age. By the aid of Aaron 
Burr he visited Paris in 1796, for improvement in 
painting. He returned five years thereafter to New 
York, and in 1803 revisited Europe, remaining 
there till 18 15. It was in the interval between these 
last-mentioned dates that he made excellent copies 
of some of the paintings by the " Old Masters ; " but 
he was more distinguished by his well-known paint- 
ings, " The Murder of Jane McCrea by the In- 
dians," and "The Ariadne," the latter a justly cele- 
brated work of art, and the first successful represen- 
tation, by an American artist, of a mythological sub- 
ject. Among his other works was the well-known 
picture, " Marius sitting among the Ruins of Car- 
thage ; " which received the high honor of the Gold 
Medal at the Paris Exhibition in 1808; and it is 
said, on the authority of Chancellor Livingston, that 
when the Emperor Napoleon first saw it in this 

Chancellor Livingston. 1 1 

exhibition, lie directed that medal to be given to 
Mr. Vanderlyn without his picture being subjected 
to the usual ordeal before the Art Committee. 

After his return to America, he painted the por- 
traits of several distinguished Americans ; and then, 
relinquishing the pursuit of his art, the source of his 
true fame and approved success, he turned his whole 
attention to the exhibition of panoramic views, in 
the building called the Rotunda, situated in the City 
Hall Park, in this city. The experiment did not 
remunerate him ; and with its failure ceased also the 
successful practice of his art, his wonted vigor hav- 
ing declined. The last painting by this artist was a 
portrait of President Taylor, which was publicly 
exhibited in 185 1. 

Having thus briefly referred to the artist, I now 
proceed to lay before you an outline of the life and 
public services of Mr. Livingston, whose likeness is 
so admirably preserved to us. In order to properly 
Consider the life of this eminent citizen, it may be 
well to glance briefly at the history of the Livingston 
family, which, by its high social position, talents, 
and wealth, justly ranks among the first in the land. 

The common ancestor of the Livingstons in this 
country was John Livingston, an energetic preacher 
of the Reformed Church in Scotland, who was ban- 
ished from that country in 1663, for non-conformity 
with prelatical rule. He fled for refuge to Holland, 

12 Biographical Sketch of 

that glorious land where civil liberty and the rights 
of conscience are universally enjoyed, respected, 
and maintained, and settled In Rotterdam, in which 
city he died in 1672. 

Of the seven children of the worthy clergyman, 
one, a son named Robert, who was born in Rox- 
burgshire, in Scotland, In 1654, emigrated from Hol- 
land to New York about 1675. In 1686 he secured, 
by purchase from the Indians, a large tract of land 
for which he subsequently received a grant from Gov- 
ernor Dongan of the Province of New York, by which 
the same was made the Manor and Lordship of Liv- 
ingston, with the privilege to its owner of holding 
a Court-leet and a Court-baron, and with the right of 
advowson to all the churches within its boundaries. 

By a Royal Charter issued by George the First, 
in 1715, this grant was confirmed, and the additional 
privileges of selecting a representative to the Gene- 
ral Assembly of the Colony, and two constables, 
were conferred upon the tenants of the Manor. The 
original manor covered an area computed at from 
120,000 to 150,000 acres, and included very nearly 
the whole of the present counties of Dutchess and 
Columbia in this State. Of this vast estate much 
has passed out of the possession of the family by 
sale and otherwise, but a large portion still retains 
the name of, and Is comprised in the Manor of Liv- 
ingston, as originally created. 

Chancellor Livingston. 13 

The wife of this Robert Livingston was of the 
Schuyler family, another prominent race in this 
State, many of whom have also been greatly distin- 
guished in its history. There were three sons from 
this union — Philip, Gilbert, and Robert — who became 
the heads of different branches of this celebrated 

The eldest of these three sons, Philip, the second 
proprietor of the Manor and Lordship of Livingston, 
had a son who bore his name, and who inherited 
the spirit of his great-grandfather, the reverend 
gentleman who fled to Holland rather than violate 
principle. This Philip was born in Albany in 17 16, 
and died in York, Pennsylvania, in 1778. Although 
a merchant by profession, and one of the most dis- 
tinguished of his time, he was a man of liberal edu- 
cation, having been graduated at Yale College in 
1737, and held many offices of honor and trust in his 
native colony. He represented the city of New 
York in the Colonial House of Assembly in 1758, 
and continued a member of that body until 1769. 
He was the Speaker during his latter term of office ; 
was a member of the first and second Continental 
Congresses, and while acting in this representative 
capacity, affixed his signature to the Declaration ot 
Independence, an act which secured immortality to 
his name and memory. 

William Livingston, brother of the Philip whose 

14 Biographical Sketch of 

life has just been briefly sketched, also deserves a 
passing notice for his great distinction at the Bar, 
for his services as a Representative in Congress from 
New Jersey, and as Governor of the State of New 
Jersey ; this latter position he held till the close of 
his active public life. 

His name and fame survived in his son, Brockholst 
Livingston, born in the city of New York, November 
25th, 1757. This gentleman took an active and 
important part in the War for Independence, shared 
in the capture of Burgoyne, and was promoted to 
the rank of Colonel. He held many important pub- 
lic positions, and in 1806 was raised to the Bench of 
the Supreme Court of the United States. His death 
took place on the i8th of March, 1823. Following 
this assemblage of distinguished men, many others of 
this celebrated family of Livingston attained distinc- 
tion at the Bar and in the various walks of civil life ; 
but of these time will not allow even brief mention. 

In this short sketch of this family, I have shown 
that, by their talents, their virtues, and their pubHc 
zeal, they conferred honor upon as well as deserved 
honor from the country which proudly enrols them 
among its most esteemed, meritorious, and useful 

I propose now to give you some brief but carefully 
ascertained particulars, regarding the subject of this 
excellent portrait, for which we are indebted to the 

Chancellor Livingston. 15 

kind thoughtfulness of our patriotic countrywoman — 
herself of kin to this brancli of the family. 

Robert Livingston, first Lord and Patentee of the 
Manor of Livingston, gave to his youngest son 
Robert 13,000 acres of land, the same being the town 
of Clermont. This grant was in reward for discover- 
ing and frustrating a plot formed among the Indians 
to massacre the white population of the Province. 
His only son and child, Robert R. Livingston, be- 
came at his father's death the owner of this large 
estate, and a person of much distinction in the State, 
receiving the appointment of Judge from the English 
Crown. He was chosen a delegate to the Colonial 
Congress, which met in New York, October 7th, 
1765, "to consider the means of a general and 
united, dutiful, loyal and humble representation of 
their condition to his Majesty George the Third, and 
the English Parliament, and to implore relief from 
the recent enactments of that body, levying duties 
and taxes on the Colonies." This body is known in 
history as the Stamp Act Congress. Robert R. Liv- 
ingston married Miss Margaret Beekman, only 
daughter and child, then living, of Colonel Henry 
Beekman, of Rhinebeck. They had a numerous 
family of children, of whom the eldest was Robert 
R. Livingston, of Clermont, whose portrait is before 
you. He was born in the city of New York on the 
27th of November, 1746, and at the age of eighteen 

i6 Biographical Sketch of 

years was graduated from King's, now Columbia 
College, then under the presidency of Myles Cooper. 
He next studied law under William Smith, the his- 
torian, and later in the office of his kinsman. Gover- 
nor William Livingston, of New Jersey. 

In 1773 he was admitted to the bar, and for a 
short time was a business partner of John Jay. He 
met with great success in the practice of law, and 
was appointed Recorder of the City of New York, 
under the Crown, in 1773 ; this office he retained but 
twp years, losing it through his attachment to lib- 
erty and his active sympathy with the revolutionary 
spirit of his countrymen, which took form in deeds 
in 1775. 

He was sent a delegate from New York to the 
Congress of 1776, and had the honor of being 
chosen one of a committee of five to draft the Decla- 
ration of Independence; which, owing to absence, 
he was prevented from signing, being called away to 
New York to attend the Provincial Congress, of 
which he was a member. 

On the 8th July, 1776, he took his seat in the 
Provincial Convention — which on the same day 
changed the title of the Province to that of the State 
of New York — and was appointed on the committee 
to draw up a State Constitution. 

During the Revolution he signalized himself by 
his zeal and efficiency in the cause of independence. 

Chantellor Livingston. ly 

■and he ranks with the most illustrious characters of 
that notable period. 

He was the first Chancellor of the State of New 
York, and held that high position from 1777 until 
February, 1801. In this official capacity he had the 1 
honor to administer the oath of office to Washington, ,/ 
on his inauguration as first President of the United 
States. The ceremony took place at the City Hall, 
then fronting on Wall street, in this city, which had 
been specially fitted up for the reception of Congress. 
On this memorable occasion. Chancellor Livingston, 
after having administered the oath, exclaimed in 
deep and impressive tones, " Long live George 
Washington, President of the United States." 

From August, 1781, to August, 1783, he ably 
filled the important office of Secretary of Foreign 
Affairs for the United States. In 1788 he was made 
Chairman of the New York Convention to consider 
the United States Constitution, and was principally 
instrumental in procuring its adoption. 

Chancellor Livingston was tendered the post of 
Minister to France by President Washington, but 
saw fit to decline its acceptance ; at a later period, 
however, after refusing a position as Secretary of the 
Navy in the cabinet of President Jefferson, he was 
prevailed upon to undertake the mission to France, 
and was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to that 
government in 1801, resigning the Chancellorship 

1 8 Biographical Sketch of 

of New York to accept the post abroad. Upon his 
arrival in France, he was received by Napoleon 
Buonaparte, then First Consul, with marked respect 
and cordiality ; and enjoyed the warm friendship of 
that remarkable personage during a residence of 
several years in the French capital, where, as is 
stated in an encyclopaedia of the day, " he appeared 
to be the favorite foreign envoy." His ministry was 
signalized by the cession of Louisiana to the United 
States, which through his negotiations took place in 
1803. Although Mr. Monroe was also a member of 
the commission appointed to arrange this matter 
with the French government, he did not arrive in 
Paris until Mr. Livingston had nearly perfected and 
definitely settled the terms of the cession. The 
share of Monroe in the transaction was principally in 
affixing his signature as one of the commission to 
the contract between the two governments. Minis- 
ter Livingston was also successful in procuring a 
settlement for the numerous spoliations by the French 
on our commerce; but the Congress of the United 
States, to this day, has failed to distribute to its 
rightful owners the money received under that set- 
tlement. Having resigned his position at the French 
capital, he travelled extensively in Europe. After 
his return to Paris in 1804, on his journey home- 
ward, he took leave of Napoleon, then Emperor, 
who, in token of his friendship and esteem, presented 

Chancellor Livingston. 19 

Livingston with a splendid snuff-box, containing a 
miniature likeness of himself, painted by the cele- 
brated Isabey. 

While in Paris he made the acquaintance of Ful- 
ton, and a warm friendship grew up between them, 
and together they successfully developed a plan of 
steam navigation, the particulars of which invention, 
though generally known, I shall briefly recount. 
Towards the close of the last century, Mr. Living- 
ston became deeply impressed with the great advan- 
tages which must occur to commerce from the appli- 
cation of steam to navigation. He obtained from 
the Legislature of the State of New York the 
exclusive right to navigate its waters by steam power 
for a period of twenty years, and then constructed a 
boat of thirty tons burden, with which he succeeded 
in making three miles an hour. The concession 
from the Legislature was made on condition of at- 
taining a speed of four miles, and this Livingston 
might have accomplished had his pubHc duties per- 
mitted him the time to devote to further experiments. 
When at a later day, as has been mentioned, he 
made the acquaintance of Fulton — who, though 
young, was possessed of great practical as well as 
theoretical ability — he acquainted him with what had 
been done in America, and advised him earnestly to 
turn his attention to the subject. • Together they 
made numerous experiments, and finally launched a 

20 Biographical Sketch of 

boat on the Seine, which, however, did not fully 
realize their expectations. 

Upon the return of Livingston and Fulton to 
America, their experiments were continued, and in 
1807 the " Clermont " was built and launched upon the 
Hudson River, where it accomplished five miles an 
hour. This success clearly demonstrated the feasi- 
bility of the propulsion of vessels by the aid of steam, 
and effected a complete revolution in the art of navi- 

Mr. Livingston, it will be seen, was both an ori- 
ginator and inventor before his meeting with Fulton ; 
and though Fulton is considered the actual inventor 
of the successful steamboat, it must be acknowledged 
that he was greatly indebted to Livingston, not 
merely for material aid and encouragement, but like- 
wise for much practical and valuable suggestion and 

I will not detain the members of the Society longer 
by further particulars on this interesting subject, but 
shall append to this sketch a copy of .a communica- 
tion drawn up by Mr. Livingston himself, and ad- 
dressed to Doctors Hosack and Francis, which was 
published in the Amer'ican Medical and Philosophi- 
cal Register. This communication will enable others 
to judge for themselves how far Mr. Livingston was 
instrumental in perfecting and bringing before the 
world one of the greatest discoveries of the age. 

Chancellor Livingston. 21 

An enumeration of the public services of tliis emi- 
nent citizen would scarcely be complete without a 
reference to the prominent part taken by him in 
establishing the great system of inland navigation by 
canals, which has made New York the chief com- 
mercial State of the Union. 

Another important service rendered by Living- 
ston was in determining and adjusting the eastern 
boundary line of New York State. In company 
with several other distinguished citizens, he served 
on the commission appointed for this purpose, which 
permanently settled the controversies between New 
York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, and 
which may be said to have given the State of Ver- 
mont to the Union. 

The retirement of Mr. Livingston from public ser- 
vice was but the beginning of a new era of useful- 
ness in his memorable career. During the remain- 
der of his life he devoted much time and attention to 
the subject of agriculture, and was actively engaged 
in introducing a number of valuable improvements in 
that art into the State of New York. Through his 
endeavors the use of gypsum for fertilizing purposes 
became quite general, and he was the first to intro- 
duce the celebrated breed of merino sheep to the 
farming community west of the Hudson River. 

While a resident of Paris, which then, as now, was 
a great art centre, and the resort of the refined and 

2 2 Biographical Sketch of 

intelligent from all parts of the civilized world, Mr. 
Livingston found time, aside from his official duties, 
to cultivate those tastes which afterwards he sought 
to encourage among his countrymen at home. 

He was the principal founder of the American 
Academy of Fine Arts, established in New York in 
1 80 1, and upon his return to America became its 
President, continued for many years its chief officer, 
and through life was devoted to its interests. He 
added a fine collection of busts and statuary to that 
institution, many of which now grace the National 
Academy of Design in this city, and are included 
among its most precious treasures. 

Through the liberality of Napoleon, who was a 
warm friend and supporter of the arts and sciences, 
Mr. Livingston was enabled to increase the posses- 
sions of the American Academy, by the addition of 
many valuable paintings and rare prints. I may add 
here that, when the American Academy of Fine 
Arts was oversha,dowed by the Academy of Design, 
resulting from the misunderstanding which grew out 
of the attempt to remove the President of the former 
in order to substitute the artist who became the. 
President of the latter, the artists generally ceased 
to exhibit their paintings, as theretofore had been 
their uniform practice, in the elder institution, and 
restricted their patronage to the younger ; hence, the 
source from which the American Academy chiefly 

Chancellor Livingsion. 23 

derived its income was no longer available, that in- 
stitution fell into debt, and finally became bankrupt. 
Fortunately, its Book of Minutes has recently be- 
come the property of the New York Historical So- 
ciety. A new value now attaches to this already 
interesting relic, as we have in it abundant evidence 
of the zeal of the principal founder and first President 
of the Academy, whose portrait we now also pos- 
sess, and to whose munificent patronage in its early 
and prosperous career these Minutes conclusively 

Mr. Livingston did not, however, restrict his atten- 
tion to the fine arts. Having truly at heart the best 
interests of his countrymen, he, like Washington, 
took a deep interest in all that pertained to their 
welfare, but in an especial manner in agriculture. 
He contributed largely to the literature of the day 
on this subject, and among his published works are 
an " Essay on Agriculture " and an " Essay on 
Sheep." His last work, written a few days previous 
to his death, was devoted to agriculture, and was 
published in Brewster's Encyclopaedia. 

Among the men of our common country, who by 
their deeds and fame have added to the national 
glory and to the substantial welfare of the land, a 
pre-eminently conspicuous place will ever be assigned 
to Robert R. Livingston. 

Eminent in the profession of law, he occupied 

24 Biographical Sketch of 

several of the highest positions in the State and 
nation, in which positions his legal talents were of 
great benefit to his fellow-citizens, and met with the 
universal acknowledgement they so richly deserved. 

As an orator he possessed a marked degree of 
persuasive eloquence, which was frequently suc- 
cessful in overcoming the most deeply rooted preju- 
dices. His well-known patriotism and acknowledged 
integrity of character lent an almost irresistible force 
to his utterances, and enabled him to rivet the atten- 
tion of his auditors. So distinguished a person as 
Franklin termed him the Cicero of America. 

As an author his works show an intimate acquaint- 
ance with the subjects of which they treat, and give 
evidence of careful preparation and sound judgment. 

In his career as diplomatist, he evinced a masterly 
ability and a keen insight of character, which ren- 
dered every negotiation upon which he entered in 
that capacity a brilliant as well as honest success for 
his country ; and he not only won the appreciation of 
his countrymen, but also the esteem of the foreign 
officials with whom he was thrown in contact. 

As an earnest worker in science, to whose inven- 
tive genius the world is in part indebted for the early 
and successful solution of the problem of steam-navi- 
gation, he takes rank among the benefactors of man- 

A lover of the beautiful, he was among the earliest 

Chancellor Livingston. 25 

and most liberal patrons of art in America, and by 
his influence, benefactions, and labors, aided greatly 
in the development of a pure taste among his coun- 

His mental activity was of the most remarkable 
nature, leading him to find sufficient relaxation in 
change of employment, where others demand amuse- 
ments and pleasure. He found agreeable employ- 
ment in the study of science, history, and the classics, 
and up to the last days of his active and useful life, 
gave evidence of the possession of undiminished 
mental energy and unclouded intellect. 

Possessed of a recognized integrity of character, 
amiable disposition, and refined tastes, coupled with 
a broad culture, which he was assiduous in develop- 
ing, he won hosts of admirers, and in his circle of 
friends counted many of the most learned and dis- 
tinguished men, both at home and abroad. With an 
unbounded love for his country, his wealth as well as 
his talents were ever employed in serving her best 

Connected with the Protestant Episcopal Church 
from an enlightened preference for its doctrines, 
he continued through life a devoted" member of it. 
Wholly destitute of hostile feeling towards those 
who entertained other and opposing religious 
views, he furnishes a notable example of the 
freedom from prejudice on these subjects which 

2b Biographical Sketch of 

is a characteristic of the purely enlightened 

Under the provisions of an Act of Congress, each 
State was entitled to place the statues of two of its 
most eminent citizens in the Capitol at Washington. 

The State of New York having made but one 
selection, that of George Clinton, whose name was 
suggested by Governor Hoffman — at that time the 
incumbent of the gubernatorial ofifice — and this nomi- 
nation having received the approval of the Legisla- 
ture, it devolved upon his successor in office, Gov- 
ernor Dix, to make the second nomination. With 
discriminating judgment, this cultured gentleman 
selected Chancellor Livingston for this high honor. 
The nomination receiving the approval of the legisla- 
tive body, Mr. E. D. Palmer, a sculptor of note 
residing at Albany, was selected to execute the 
statue, which, upon being finished, was placed in the 
old Representatives' Hall in the Capitol at Wash- 
ington, where it now stands in company with those 
of Hamilton, Clinton, Jefferson, Trumbull, and other 
of the most celebrated men of the nation. This statue, 
which has been pronounced by competent judges 
one of the finest in the collection, is in bronze, and of 
colossal size. The Chancellor is represented stand- 
ing erect, his form mantled by his robe of office, 
which falls in graceful folds from his broad shoulders. 
The right hand bears a scroll inscribed " Louisiana," 

Chancellor Livingston. 27 

suggestive of his great diplomatic achievement, which 
secured for the United States the immense area of 
territory now comprised within the boundaries of the 
six States of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, 
Minnesota, and Kansas. 

Few men have enjoyed in so large a degree the 
confidence of their countrymen, and fewer still have 
been more actively engaged in events of greater im- 
portance to the world at large. 

His well-poised judgment furnished him an uner- 
ring guide in both public and private affairs, lifting 
him above the ordinary weaknesses of the multitude, 
and he was alike distinguished for his probity and 
his wisdom. 

After a most useful, active and patriotic career, he 
passed from this life on the 26th of February, 1813, 
at his seat at Clermont, in the sixty-sixth year of his 

The memory of such a life is in itself a priceless 

" So his life has flowed 
From its mysterious urn a sacred stream, 
In whose calm depth the beautiful and pure 
Alone are mirror'd ; which, though shapes of ill 
May hover round its surface, glides in light, 
And takes no shadow from them. " 


An Historical Account of the Application of Steam for 
the Propelling of Boats ; prepared by Chancellor 
Livingston, and addressed to Drs. Hosack and Francis, 
editors of the American Medical and Philosophical 
Register ; published in Vol. II. of that journal, pages 
256 to 263. 

" It is much to be wished that a regular account 
of the introduction of useful arts had been transmitted 
by the historical writers of every age and country, 
not merely that justice mig'ht be done to the genius 
and enterprise of the inventors, and the nation by 
whom they were fostered, but that the statesman and 
philosopher might mark the influence of each upon 
the wealth, morals, and characters of mankind. 
Every one sees and acknowledges the changes that 
have been wrought by the improvements in agricul- 
ture and navigation, but seldom reflects on the extent 
to which apparently small discoveries have influenced, 
not only the prosperity of the nation to which the in- 
vention owes its birth, but those with which it is re- 
motely connected. When Arkwright invented his 
cotton-mills, the man would have been laughed at that 
ventured to predict that not only Great Britain would 
be many millions gainer annually by it, but that in 

30 Appendix. 

consequence of it the waste lands of the Carolinas 
and Georgia would attain an incalculable value, and 
their planters vie in wealth with the nabobs of the 
East. A new art has sprung up among us, which 
promises to be attended with such important con- 
sequences, that I doubt not, sirs, you will with 
pleasure make your useful work record its introduc- 
tion, that when in future years it becomes common, 
the names of the inventors may not be lost to pos- 
terity, and that its effects upon the wealth and man- 
ners of society may be more accurately marked. I 
refer (as you have doubtless conjectured) to the in- 
vention of steamboats, which owe their introduction 
solely to the genius and enterprise of our fellow- 
citizens; the utility of which is already so far 
acknowledged, that although only four years have 
elapsed since the first boat was built by Mr. Living- 
ston and Mr. Fulton, ten vessels are now in opera- 
tion on their construction, and several more con- 
tracted for. 

" When Messrs. Watt and Bolton had given a great 
degree of perfection to the steam-engine, it was con- 
ceived that this great and manageable power might 
be usefully applied to the purposes of navigation ; 
the first attempt, however, to effect this, as far as I 
have yet learned, was made in America in the year 
1783. Mr. John Fitch (having first obtained from 
most of the States in the Union a law vesting in him 

Appendix. 3 1 

for a long term the exclusive use of steamboats) 
built one upon the Delaware. He made use of Watt 
and Bolton's engine, and his propelling power was 
paddles. This vessel navigated the river from Phila- 
delphia to Bordentown for a few weeks, but was 
found so imperfect, and liable to so many accidents, 
that it was laid aside, after the projector had ex- 
pended a large sum of money for himself and his 

" Rumsey, another American, w^ho was deservedly 
ranked among our most ingenious mechanics, fol- 
lowed Fitch ; but, not being able to find men at home 
who were willing, after Fitch's failure, to embark in 
so hazardous an enterprise, he went to England, 
where, aided by the capital of Mr. Daniel Parker and 
other moneyed men, he built a boat upon the Thames, 
which, after many and very expensive trials, was 
found defective, and never went into operation. 
Rumsey's propelling power was water pumped by 
the engine into the vessel and expelled from the 

" The next attempt was made by Chancellor Liv- 
ingston, to whom, as to Fitch, the State of New 
York gave an exclusive right for twenty years, upon 
condition that he built and kept in operation a boat 
of twenty tons burthen, that should go at the rate of 
four miles an hour. He expended a considerable 
sum of money in the experiment, and built a boat of 

3 2 Appendix. 

about thirty tons burthen, which went three miles an 
hour. As this did not fulfil the conditions of his con- 
tract with the State, he relinquished the project for 
the moment, resolving, whenever his public avoca- 
tions would give him leisure, to pursue it. His 
action upon the water was by a horizontal wheel 
placed in a well in the bottom of the boat, which 
communicated with the water at its centre, and when 
whirled rapidly round propelled the water by the 
centrifugal force, through an aperture in the stern. 
In this way he hoped to escape the encumbrance of 
external wheels or paddles, and the irregularities that 
the action of the waves might occasion. Not being 
able with the small engine' he used, which was an 
eighteen-inch cylinder, with a three-feet stroke, to 
obtain, as I have said, a greater velocity than three 
miles an hour, and fearing that the loss of power in 
this way was greater than could be compensated by 
the advantage he proposed from his plan, he relin- 
quished it ; but, as I am informed, still thinks that 
when boats are designed for very rough water, that 
it may be eligible to adopt it in preference to external 

" Not long after, John Stevens, Esq., of Hoboken, 
engaged in the same pursuit, tried elliptical paddles, 
smoke-jack wheels, and a variety of other ingenious 
contrivances — sometimes of his own invention, and 
again, in conjunction with Mr. Kinsley, late one of 

Appendix. 2>i 

our most distinguished mechanicians. None of these 
having been attended with the desired effect, Mr. 
Stevens has, since the introduction of Messrs. Liv- 
ingston and Fulton's boat, adopted their principles, 
and built two boats that are propelled by wheels, to 
which he has added a boiler of his invention, that 
promises to be a useful improvement on engines de- 
signed for boats. Whilst these unsuccessful attempts 
were making in America, the mechanics of Europe 
were not wholly inattentive to the object. Lord 
Stanhope, who deservedly ranks very high among 
them, expended a considerable sum of money in 
building a steamboat, which, like all that preceded it, 
totally failed. His operating power upon the water 
was something in the form of a duck's foot. A gen- 
tleman in France (whose name I have forgotten), 
when Mr. Livingston and Mr. Fulton were building 
their experimental boat on the Seine, complained in 
the French papers that the Americans had fore- 
stalled his invention ; that he had invented a boat 
that would go seven miles an hour, and explained 
his principles. Mr. Fulton repHed to him, and 
showed him that attempts had been previously made 
in America, and assuring him that his plan was quite 

different. Mr. -'s would not answer. He had 

expended a great deal of money and failed ; he made 
vise of a horizontal cylinder and chain-paddles. 

" After the experiments made by Mr. Livingston 

34 Appendix. 

and Mr. Fulton at Paris, a boat was built in Scotland 
that moved in some measure like a small boat that 
was exhibited for some time at New York by Mr. 
Fitch. The cylinder was laid horizontally, and her 
action upon the water was similar to his ; but as her 
speed upon the water was a little better than two 
miles an hour, I presume she has gone into disuse. 

" You will not, sir, find this record of the errors of 
projectors uninteresting, since they serve the double 
purpose of deterring others from wasting time and 
money upon them, and of setting in its true light the 
enterprise of those who, regardless of so many 
failures, had the boldness to undertake and the hap- 
piness to succeed in the enterprise. 

" Robert R. Livingston, Esq., when minister in 
France, met with Mr. F"ulton, and they formed that 
friendship and connection with each other to which 
a similarity of pursuits generally gives birth. He 
communicated to Mr. Fulton the importance of steam- 
boats to their common country, informed him of 
what had been attempted in America and of his 
resolution to resume the pursuit on his return, and 
advised him to turn his attention to the subject. It 
was agreed between them to embark in the enter- 
prise, and immediately to make such experiments as 
would enable them to determine how far, in spite of 
former failures, the object was attainable. The prin- 
cipal direction of these experiments was left to Mr. 

Appendix. 35 

Fulton, who united, in a very considerable degree, 
practical to a theoretical knowledge of mechanics. 
After trying a variety of experiments on a small 
scale, on models of his own invention, it was under- 
stood that he had developed the true principles upon 
which steamboats should be built, and for the want 
of knowing which, all previous experiments had 
failed. But, as these gentlemen both knew that 
many things which were apparently perfect when 
tried on a small scale, failed when reduced to prac- 
tice upon a large one, they determined to go to the 
expense of building an operating boat upon the 
Seine. This was done in the year 1803, at their 
joint expense, under the direction of Mr. Fulton, and 
so fully evinced the justice of his principles, that it 
was immediately determined to enrich their country 
by the valuable discovery as soon as they should 
meet there, and in the meantime to order an engine 
to be made in England. On the arrival at New 
York of Mr. Fulton, which was not until 1806, they 
immediately engaged in building a boat of what was 
then considered very considerable dimensions. This 
boat began to navigate the Hudson River in Sep- 
tember, 1807 ; its progress through the water was at 
the rate of five miles an hour. In the course of the 
ensuing winter it was enlarged to a boat of one 
hundred and forty feet keel, and sixteen and a half 
feet beam. The Legislature of the State were so 


6 Appendix. 

fully convinced of the great utility of the invention, 
and the interest the State had in its encouragement, 
that they made a new contract with Mr. Livingston 
and Mr. Fulton, by which they extended the term of 
their exclusive right five years for every additional 
boat they should build, provided that the whole term 
should not exceed thirty years ; in consequence of 
which they have added two boats to the North 
River boat (besides those that have been built by 
others under their license), the Car of Neptune, 
which is a beautiful vessel of about three hundred 
tons burthen, and the Paragon, of three hundred and 
fifty tons, a drawing of which is sent you herewith, 
together with a description of her interior arrange- 

" It will appear, sir, from the above history of steam- 
boats, that the first deyelopment of the principles 
and combinations upon which their success was 
founded was discovered by Mr. Fulton in the year 
1803, and grew out of a variety of experiments made 
by him and Mr. Livingston for that purpose, at Paris, 
about that period ; and that the first steamboat that 
was ever in this or any other country put into useful 
operation (if we except the imperfect trial of Fitch) 
was built upon those principles by Mr. Livingston 
and Mr. Fulton, at New York, in 1807. From these 
periods the invention of the art may be dated. I 
will not trouble you with an explanation of these 

Appendix. 3 7 

principles ; they are now so cleady developed in his 
patents, and rendered so obvious by being publicly 
reduced to practice, that any experienced mechanic 
may, by a recourse to them, build a steamboat. 
What has hitherto been a stumbling-block to the 
ablest mechanicians of the old and new world is now 
become so obvious and familiar to all, that they look 
back with astonishment upon their own failures, and 
lament the time they have been deprived of this 
useful invention. Had it not been for a fortunate 
occurrence of circumstances, it is highly probable 
that another century would have elapsed before it 
had been introduced. Past failures operated as a 
discouragement to new trials ; the great expense that 
attended experiments upon the only scale on which 
it could succeed would have deterred any but men 
of property from engagiiog in the enterprise ; and 
how few of these are there in any country that choose 
to risk much in projects, and upon such especially as 
have repeatedly proved unfortunate ? Add to this, 
that without special encouragement from the govern- 
ment, and a perfect security of their rights, in case of 
the success of so expensive and hazardous an enter- 
prise, it could not have been expected that any 
individuals would have embarked their time, their 
fame, and their fortunes in it. In the present in- 
stance, happily for our country, mechanical talents 
and property united with the enthusiasm of pro- 

38 Appendix. 

jectors in the enterprise, and the enlightened policy 
of this State afforded it a Hberal patronage. Under 
these circumstances a new art has happily, and hon- 
orably for this country, been brought into existence ; 
speed, convenience, and ease have been introduced 
into our system of travelling, which the world has 
never before experienced ; and the projectors, stim- 
ulated by the public patronage and the pride of 
success, have spared no expense that can contribute 
to the ease and safety of travellers. Their boats are 
furnished with every accommodation that can be 
found in the best hotels ; every new boat is an im- 
provement upon the one that preceded, until they 
have obtained a degree of perfection which leaves us 
nothing to wish, but that the public, duly impressed 
with the advantage they have received from their 
labors, may cheerfully bestow on them the honor and 
profit to which the boldness of their enterprise, and 
the liberal manner in which it has been executed, so 
jusdy entitle them. 

A Friend to Science."